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PNP, PDEA welcome new SC rules on destruction of seized drugs

OFFICIALS of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) have fully welcomed a new Supreme Court ruling on the destruction and disposal of seized dangerous drugs, equipment and other instruments in the production of shabu in the country within 24 hours from the conduct of the ocular inspection.

The approved Supreme Court Rule on the Destruction and Disposal of Seized Dangerous Drugs, Other Substances, and Instruments Prior to the Filing of an Information is scheduled to take effect today after its required publication.

The PNP headed by General Debold M. Sinas, PNP Officer-in-Charge, Lieutenant Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar and the PDEA headed by Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva said the new ruling from the High Tribunal will make it more easy for them to destroy confiscated drug evidence to prevent suspicions they may subjected to pilferage and so-called ‘recycling.’

Under A.M. No. 21-02-01-SC, the Court provides that the application for the destruction and disposal of the seized dangerous drugs and related paraphernalia shall be filed by the law enforcement agent or the prosecutor before the court which issued the search warrant immediately after the seizure.

If the seizure or confiscation was done without a warrant, the application for their destruction and disposal shall be filed before the court which has territorial jurisdiction over the case and the place where the dangerous drugs, other substances, and instruments were found and seized.

In both instances, the compliance with Sec. 21(1), Article II of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 as amended by R.A. 10640 or the act which amended Section 21 of RA 9165 is required.

Section 21 provides for proper documentation which includes, among others, the conduct of physical inventory and photograph of the seized items.

The Rule further provides that a judge shall conduct an ocular inspection of the seized articles within 72 hours from the time the application is filed if the seized drugs amount to one kilogram or more, or if the seized instruments and equipment cannot be physically brought to court.

Within 24 hours from the conduct of the ocular inspection, the court shall order the retention of a representative sample of the seized drugs which shall be kept in the forensic laboratory of the operating unit which seized the drugs. In cases where the seized drugs are physically brought to the court, the court shall order the retention of the representative sample of the seized drugs also within 24 hours.

The taking of the representative sample shall be witnessed by: 1) the person from whom the items were seized or his or her representative or counsel; 2) the elected public official who witnessed the physical inventory and photographing of the seized drugs; 3) an official from the National Prosecution Service or a representative from the media; 4) law enforcement agent/s who seized the drugs; and 5) the forensic laboratory personnel.

Also within 24 hours from the conduct of the ocular inspection, the court shall order the immediate destruction and disposal of the remaining seized drugs or instruments and equipment. Prior to the actual destruction and disposal, however, the seized drugs shall be immediately sent and delivered to the Drug Forensic Center of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). The above cited witnesses to the taking of the representative sample shall also witness the actual destruction of the seized drugs and instruments.

The applicant shall file a report to the court, with attached photographs and video recordings of the destruction and disposal process, within 24 hours from the actual destruction and disposal of the seized drugs and items.

Upon proper motion, the court, using its sound discretion, may allow the proper and lawful use of seized drugs and controlled chemicals, when no longer needed as evidence, for the training of K9 detector dogs for narcotics subject to compliance of established guidelines by PDEA.

If the criminal information is filed already before the court other than the court that issued the search warrant or order the destruction and disposal, the records of the search warrant and order for destruction and disposal, including attachment, shall be consolidated with the court where the criminal information is filed. In cases where no search warrants were issued, the criminal information shall be filed before the court that issued the order for destruction and disposal.

Section 5(5), Article VIII of the Constitution vests in the Supreme Court, among others, the power to promulgate rules concerning practice and procedure in all courts.

Under the supervision of the PDEA, billions of pesos worth of shabu, its controlled precursors and essential chemicals and laboratory equipment being used to manufacture the so-called ‘poor man’s cocaine’ as well as confiscated dried marijuana leaves, cocaine, Ecstasy and other dangerous drugs have been destroyed by the Duterte government since 2016.

Villanueva said the destruction is in compliance with the order of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to immediately destroy seized contraband to avoid recycling by unscrupulous individuals.

The President’s order came after the Senate hearing on September 29, 2020 where the issue of illegal drugs being kept in storage facilities was raised to avoid recycling.

The PDEA has been conducting destruction of confiscated drug evidence recovered during anti-drug operations and those turned over by other law enforcement agencies.

The drugs are being destroyed thru a process called thermal decomposition or thermolysis which is the method of decomposition or breaking down of chemicals by heat. At 1,000 degrees centigrade, all dangerous drugs are totally decomposed or broken down.

In July last year, the SC reminded all regional trial courts to “strictly comply” with the requirements of Section 21 (4) of RA 9165 on the immediate destruction of confiscated illegal drugs weighing five kilograms or more.

The law provides that “after the filing of the criminal case, the court shall, within 72 hours, conduct an ocular inspection” of the confiscated, seized illegal drugs or precursor chemicals, and “through the PDEA shall within 24 hours thereafter proceed with the destruction or burning of the same”, provided, that a representative sample, duly weighed and recorded is retained.